We remember King Pyrrhus of Epirus (Ancient Greece) for inadvertently leaving us with a bequest in the phrase ‘Pyrrhic victory’. The ancient historian Plutarch is credited for giving us a blow by blow account of Pyrrhus adventures and misadventures. One time Scipio Africanus asked Hannibal who he thought to be the ultimate military strategist and Hannibal did not hesitate to place Pyrrhus among the top echelon. This could serve as a confirmation that Pyrrhus was an admirable Crichton. One cannot complete a list of who-is-who in historical military commanders without jotting down such names as Pyrrhus of Epirus, Hannibal of Carthage, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus of Rome, Leonidas of Sparta, and Alexander the Great. The late Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi seems to have been unreservedly fascinated by Hannibal to the extent that he named one of his sons after him. The high-flying, high-rolling Hannibal Muammar Gaddafi helped us appreciate the brutality of his father’s regime courtesy of his iPad that was seized by militiamen in 2011.
At one point the inhabitants of Sparta’s colony of Tarentum had offended the Roman Republic, and as such, they were to face punishment. Since Tarentum citizens lacked an army, they resorted to using soldiers of fortune supplied by Pyrrhus king of Epirus. King Pyrrhus men deployed elephants to defend Tarentum against Roman invasion. On the contrary, the Romans engaged horses. I guess you can figure out the outcome of combat between Elephants and horses: Victory on the part of elephant’s riders.
King Pyrrhus would go ahead to successfully wage successive wars against the Roman Republic albeit at a pronounced cost. It is a paradox considering that this is the same time the Romans began using Janus image on their coins. Perhaps Janus was angry about being associated with aureus. Or maybe he had gone to the Garden of the Hesperides on a date with Venus. That aside, the unsavoury cumulative victory by King Pyrrhus prompted him to wisecrack this legendary statement, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” Witticism or no witticism this statement carries massive tonnes of wisdom than the world’s greatest tanker.
David knew when to run and when to stand
David chanced upon a golden opportunity to rise to the acme of Israel history as a distinguished soldier while he was in the service of his battle-hardened brothers. He did not come to the top by being served but through serving. This is the irony of the Kingdom transactions. We do not become great by being served but by serving. It is consonant to what Jesus taught (Matt. 23:11; Mark 9:35). I find David to be the type and Jesus to be the antitype.
David’s unparalleled victories appalled King Saul but appealed to the masses of Israelites. It gave birth to a kind of razzmatazz that swept across the kingdom like Tsunami floods. These waves created by a young man who had chosen to trust in Yahweh did not bode well with King Saul. The green-eyed king decided to nip the budding fella in the bud lest his grip on power was challenged.
David took note of the sudden change in Saul’s demeanour. He could tell that a violent gale was approaching fast and furious. He had the option of staying and fighting – he had become a darling of many – or fleeing like a flea. He chose the latter, and it served him well. By doing this he allowed God’s plan in his life to come to maturation.
Knowing when to fight and when to run
The Bible is succinct in these matters. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 tells us that there is a time for everything. There is a time to pitch the tent and there is also a time to break it and advance (Deuteronomy 1:7). There is a time to fight and there is also a time to make peace or even retreat (1st Cor. 10:14; 1st Tim. 6:11). It all boils down to timing. If we align our timelines to that one of God then we would realise that retreating is not cowardice, making peace is not a sign of weakness and humility is not insanity.
Sleep when it is time to sleep; it is not laziness. Wake up when it is time to wake; it is no showiness. Sit when it is time to sit; it is not a sign of giving up. Stand up when it is time to stand; it is not rudeness. Walk away when it is time to walk away; it is not tantamount to failure. Run when it is time to run; it is not a sign of faintheartedness. Fly away when it is time to fly; it is not evil.
Stop, and consider! Why are you fighting? Why are you engrossed in that adventure day and night? Is it worth the time and energy you are expending? Count the cost; some things are not worth the sweat. Know when to act.
“Success that costs too much should be considered a failure.”